Ian Anderson was one of many higher tales of the 2020 season. Getting into the 12 months as the No. 3 prospect in the Braves’ system and the No. 44 prospect in all of baseball, he was seen as a future mid-rotation starter who may assist rapidly. He did simply that and extra: Added to the rotation in late August, Anderson completed seventh within the NL Rookie of the 12 months voting regardless of making simply six begins. He put up a 1.95 ERA in these outings, and whereas the supporting information stated he wasn’t the Cy Younger-level pitcher that quantity would possibly recommend, he was nonetheless awfully good. He was even higher within the postseason, permitting simply two runs over 18 innings, hanging out 24 and giving up simply 11 hits.
Anderson maintained his rookie eligibility getting into 2021 and earned the No. 2 ranking in Atlanta’s system (Eric Longenhagen and I mentioned placing him at No. 1 forward of Cristian Pache) and the No. 13 spot in this year’s Top 100 list. He appeared just like the cornerstone of a younger Braves rotation that might assist cause them to Nationwide League East title rivalry.
His first begin of the 12 months was classic Anderson (or at the least as classic as you will get for a man who remains to be a rookie), as he gave up one run over 5 innings and struck out seven. His subsequent two had been removed from it: 11 hits and 7 runs allowed over 10.1 innings. Recreation rating is much from an ideal measure, nevertheless it’s a easy and fast take a look at a begin, and Anderson’s recreation scores of 47 and 45 in his final two outings symbolize the 2 worst marks of his profession. This may very well be a blip, or there may very well be some powerful luck in there. However a better take a look at the information reveals that that is greater than only a randomly-generated dangerous run.
When requested to guage a pitcher not residing as much as expectations, these are the primary three questions I attempt to reply.
- With out figuring out something internally, is there something to fret about by way of well being?
- Has the pitcher modified something by way of utilization and placement?
- Has the pitcher seen his pitch shapes change as a result of alterations in his mechanics or spin fee?
The Well being Query
It’s unimaginable to understand how a participant is feeling with out direct entry to each the person in addition to the coaching workers. The excellent news right here is that there’s nothing within the information to recommend Anderson is perhaps coping with arm points. As an outsider, one of the best analogue to pitcher arm well being is velocity, and he’s in-line together with his 2020 information.
Ian Anderson Velocity
|AVG FB Velo||AVG CB Velo|
Utilization and Location
Anderson has by no means been is aware of for his precision, however his stroll fee of 10.4% by his first three begins is a close to match for his 10.1% mark from 2020. His stuff actually strikes, and the mix of massive motion and plus command is for unicorns like Gerrit Cole. Anderson’s command is much from splendid, however there’s nothing within the information exhibiting a decline from what we’re used to. His utilization stays roughly the identical as effectively.
Ian Anderson Pitch Utilization
It’s a slight uptick in offspeed utilization, however that ought to be an excellent factor; these are this pitches that carry out one of the best. There’s nothing to see right here, which leaves us with only one extra choice.
Adjustments to Form and Spin Charge
There’s the place we really discover one thing. Anderson’s excessive launch level serves him effectively by way of pitch form, permitting him to generate a traditional rising four-seamer and contributing to his capacity to get plus depth on his curveball regardless of below-average spin charges. However one thing has occurred to his launch level in 2021, and it’s not one thing we usually see in pitchers: He has gotten each greater and wider with it. You possibly can see the distinction on this animated GIF that reveals the distinction between final 12 months and now.
This isn’t a simple mixture to realize. Seize a baseball off your desk (or a espresso cup or something roughly baseball sized). Slowly mimic your pure throwing movement and cease at your launch level. Now widen your launch level. The obvious approach to do this is to decrease the angle, which creates extra distance out of your body.
With out extremely high-speed video accessible to the widespread individual, it’s onerous to say how precisely Anderson is reaching each the next and wider launch level. It may very well be in his wrist load, or his physique place, as he’s at all times relied on a physique lean to create his angles. Or it may very well be higher extension of the elbow joint to create an extended fulcrum.
That ought to be an excellent factor. As I mentioned in my piece on pitch shapes, the shapes pitchers generate are enormously depending on arm angles. Anderson’s fastball already has plus form, and including each rise and run to the pitch ought to make it even higher, however that’s not what’s occurring.
As you’ll be able to see, Anderson’s fastball does have a bit of additional run to it from what we’ve seen previously, however extra importantly, and extra troubling, is that the pitch flattened out a bit by way of verticality. What was as soon as 12% extra vertical motion than common for pitchers with related velocity, launch level and extension is now 1% much less. Much less rise means extra onerous contact, and Anderson’s barrel fee has gone from a minuscule 1.2% in 2020 to 12.2% this 12 months.
So what’s occurring right here? My idea is that the broader launch level is affecting Anderson’s grip on the baseball and impeding his capacity to remain on prime of the ball, retaining him from producing the type of spin shapes which are vital for his signature vertical assault. It’s onerous to corroborate this with out the type of high-speed video that solely groups have entry to, however that perception is buoyed by Anderson’s curveball, which has misplaced about an inch of depth and greater than 100 rpm, or roughly 7%.
Throwing a baseball with the type of velocity and spin we see from main league pitchers requires outstanding mechanical consistency. Anderson’s latest performances usually are not the results of dangerous cube rolls, however of a small but important mechanical distinction that has made him a much less efficient pitcher. That is removed from some type of nightmare state of affairs or forecast for doom, however it’s one thing that must be addressed if he’s to return to his 2020 type, in addition to the long run projected for him.